Jefferson casino announces general manager
By DOUGLAS BURNS
A 43-year-old gaming industry veteran is returning to the Midwest from South Florida to assume the role of general manager of the casino-and-entertainment complex in Jefferson.
Mike Couch, most recently the director of gaming for Gulfstream Park, a nationally regarded casino and horse-racing facility located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, will oversee about 275 employees at the $40-million Wild Rose Casino and Resort in Jefferson.
Construction is expected to be complete on the casino Aug. 1 with live gaming launching by mid-August.
A connected, 71-room Cobblestone Inn & Suites is scheduled to open in June.
West Des Moines-based Wild Rose introduced Couch Monday morning during a news conference at the Greene County courthouse. About 30 people attended the event.
“This is a very, very important job because this person has to pull everything together,” said Tom Timmons, president of Wild Rose.
Added Timmons, “He knows every aspect of the casino, whether it’s the table games, slot machines, the construction of it, player relations, you name it.”
Couch said he plans to establish an office in Jefferson from where he will oversee construction, hiring of employees (scheduled to start in the spring and include a job fair) and other aspects of the operations.
He is now scouting cutting-edge gaming machines to potentially include with the casino’s expected inventory of at least 525 slot machines and 14 table games.
“As get we closer to opening, we’ll be bringing staff and operations people on board, training them and getting them acclimated and up to speed so that when everything kind of comes together at the opening we’ll be able to pull if all off,” Couch said.
Couch said he will be residing in Greene County, most likely Jefferson.
“I’m leaving the real estate up to my wife,” Couch said. “I guess my home will be split between Wild Rose and my residence.”
Couch and his wife, Dana, have two daughters, ages 15 and 16.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania — near Penn State University — Couch worked for Wild Rose’s management team in Emmetsburg in 2006 and also lists experience in his wife’s hometown, Peoria, Ill., where he worked for Boyd Gaming.
“I’m happy to be back in the Midwest,” Couch said. “It’s definitely a different environment and different feel in the Midwest, more welcoming.”
Norm Fandel, president of Grow Greene County Gaming Corp., the not-for-profit associated with Wild Rose in Jefferson, said Couch is a strong addition to an already successful cooperative effort.
Gary Kirke, chairman of Wild Rose, sees Couch as the right man for the right job.
“He’ll be a great fit for the Wild Rose team,” Kirke said. “He’ll be a great leader as we complete construction and open this casino and events center.”
Couch also ties into Greene County’s Home Base Iowa initiative as he’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
Stationed in Europe and the United States, Couch worked as an avionics and electronics technician for an electronic combat squadron.
“In the military, you often find yourself working as part of a team on a project that has a lot of moving parts,” Couch said. “Building a casino from the ground up definitely fits that bill and a good team is vital to being successful.”